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Commentary: Watching Cigar Trends

31 Jul 2014

beertasting

Reading the past weekend’s Wall Street Journal, it was difficult not to think about cigars.

No, I saw no stories about tobacco industry consolidation or the potential dangers of possible spreading FDA regulation. But there were thought-provoking revelations about other pursuits that called cigars to mind.

On the cover of the “Off Duty” section was a major piece delving into big changes in the luxury watch market. The new trend is a shift from big, complex watches to what the author called “simpler models… sleek and elegant timepieces that are smaller than a sundial…”

A Montblanc executive is quoted as saying that a few years ago a watch “couldn’t be bigger. The bigger, the louder, the better.” Now, he said, there’s been a turn toward classic, slimmer models.

Doesn’t that bring to mind the 60, 70, 80, and even larger ring gauges of so many recent cigar releases? Will the smoking world experience a shift similar to that of the watch world?

There might be a faint glimmer of one already, with lots of talk these days on some cigar forums and among some highly dedicated smokers about a preference for lanceros. Don’t take it too far, though. Ask just about any retailer or manufacturer, and they’ll tell you lancero sales remain nearly non-existent, while big ring gauges continue to move off the shelves.

Back to the Journal and a few pages further into the section, William Bostwick reported on popular craft beer brewers coping with greater demand and higher output. Some are opening new plants in response.

As they do, they worry about maintaining quality and retaining their small-brewery image. At the granddaddy of craft operations, Sierra Nevada, a manager confessed his respect for industry giants. “Making sure ever bottle tastes the same—that’s hard to do,” he said.

It’s not a stretch to imagine a boutique cigar manufacturer—whose customers would be no more likely to smoke a Macanudo than a Lips of Faith fan would be to hoist a Miller Lite—commenting similarly about General or Altadis.

The article closed with another observation that seems to mirror what’s happening in parts of the cigar industry: Working to keep innovation and experimentation alive as the operations grow.

Both articles were a stark reminder that in every endeavor there’s change. Sometimes good, sometimes not-so-good, but inevitable. Sometimes there are clues if you can spot them.

-George E

photo credit: Flickr

Cigar Review: CLE Plus Robusto

30 Jul 2014

CLEChristian Eiroa may not be as widely known as some other cigar blenders, but he has created an indelible legacy. His Camacho brand helped create the market for strong cigars that now forms a permanent part of the industry, while his Camp Camacho in Honduras was a pioneering effort in the growing trend of cigar tourism to Latin America.

But Eiroa, a young man with a new operation, is anything but a historical figure. These days, he’s putting terrific new cigars on the shelves at a fairly rapid pace. I’ve been strongly impressed by his Eiroa line and other brands in which he’s had a hand, such as Asylum.

Now, I can add CLE Plus to the growing list. CLE, in case you hadn’t guessed, are Eiroa’s initials. His middle name is Luis.

This Honduron puro has been on the market about a year, a presentation standout with a striking thin red band and a nutty, mouth-watering pre-light aroma from its somewhat mottled brown Corojo wrapper.

CLE Plus comes in four sizes. The Robusto—a familiar five inches long with a ring gauge of 50—is the only vitola I’ve smoked, but as I’ve been working my way through a five-pack, it seems to me to be the perfect size for this bold cigar. Large enough for a satisfying experience but not so much cigar that you’ve had too much by the end.

With a bit of spice, deep leather, a little wood, and an occasional touch of sweetness, this is a cigar blended to be sure of what it is and to stay with it. There’s no harshness, no bitterness, and no nicotine bite.

Construction is excellent, with a straight burn, lots of smoke and a great draw. The Robusto runs about $8 per stick.

CLE Plus is, in my estimation, a first-class cigar, perhaps a bit too intense for a new smoker but one that an experienced hand shouldn’t miss. I give it four stogies out of five.

[To read more StogieGuys.com cigar reviews, please click here.]

-George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Random Thoughts from the Humidor (XVIII)

29 Jul 2014

In this latest segment of Random Thoughts from the Humidor, I examine one of the wonders of cigars, contemplate new releases, and urge action.

cigars-sign

Slow, Steady Burn

It’s easy to ignore the burn of a cigar. After all, that’s what it’s supposed to do, right? But a perfect burn is truly something to behold. I reflected on this the other evening as I was sitting outside and enjoying a My Father. About a quarter of the way in, I became fixated on the absolutely perfect burn. It continued that way right to the end. That’s no simple feat. Combining tobaccos with different burn qualities, thicknesses, moisture levels, and oxygen access to get not only the taste you want but also a consistent, straight burn is the mark of a master at work.

Can New Get Old?

With the recent IPCPR Trade Show just concluding, new cigars are a dominant topic of conversation when smokers gather. Some observers say this year seems to have produced fewer new releases than in the recent past. I can’t say. There are far too many new cigars for me to keep up with them all. But I also can’t help but wonder whether the proliferation of new lines, extensions, limited editions, etc. simply leads to the pie being cut into thinner and thinner slices.

Don’t Leave Your Words Unspoken

The August 8 deadline for submitting your comments to the FDA concerning its proposals to regulate cigars (and other non-cigarette products) is nearly here. If you haven’t sent yours, don’t delay. Just click here. If you need information or suggestions, you’ll find more than a half-dozen pieces explaining the proposals here, and a tip for submitting your comments here. Now is not the time for complacency.

-George E

photo credit: Flickr

Cigar Review: La Antiguedad Robusto

15 Jul 2014

MF-la-antiguedad

In many ways, Don Pepín García’s latest cigar reflects the inverse of many of the trends driving today’s smokes: no hipster lingo or ironic twist to the name, no urban graphics for the band, a box that’s just, well, a box.

The artwork is Old World. Even the cigar’s name—Spanish for antiquity or old age—harkens to another era.

But La Antiguedad doesn’t dwell totally in the past. This lightly box-pressed new line from My Father Cigars includes a trendy 60-ring gauge Toro Gordo among its five vitolas. And the Robustos smoked for this review—5.25 inches long with a 52 ring gauge—are larger than the more common robusto dimensions.

The Ecuadorian Habano Rosado Oscuro wrapper is lovely, an oily rich brown leaf over a double binder of Nicaraguan Criollo and Corojo leaves. The filler is from the García’s Nicaraguan farms in different regions of the country. According to the My Father Cigars website, the filler tobacco undergoes “a very strict and rigorous curing process of no less than three and a half years,” and it shows in the smooth, balanced blend.

What you’ll experience with the first puff should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Don Pepín’s creations: a blast of pepper. But there’s a darker, richer undertone that stands out as the pepper quickly backs off. The overall strength moves down a notch or two through the first half as well.

A full tobacco sweetness, along with dark fruit and cocoa, braid through the cigar almost from the start, changing depth along the way.

Construction is what you’d expect from My Father Cigars: first-rate. Draw, burn, and smoke production were excellent in each of the examples I tried. The single stick price is a little under $8 and they’re 20 to a box.

This is a fine cigar, one that an experienced smoker is likely to appreciate and enjoy. I rate it four stogies out of five.

[To read more StogieGuys.com cigar reviews, please click here.]

-George E

photo credit: Corona Cigar

Quick Smoke: Crowned Heads Las Calaveras LC550

13 Jul 2014

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

LasCalaveras_Box1

This limited edition line represents a departure for Crowned Heads: only 3,000 boxes, and production by My Father Cigars rather than Ernesto Perez-Carrillo. But it certainly fits right in with other Crowned Heads offerings with top quality and great taste. An oily Ecuador Habano Oscuro wrapper blends with Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos for a rich, complex cigar. The robusto (5 x 50, $8.95) burns slowly, produces lots of smoke, and has a great finish. Planned as an annual release, Las Calaveras is one not to be missed.

Verdict = Buy.

-George E

photo credit: Crowned Heads

Quick Smoke: La Aurora Corojo Robusto

12 Jul 2014

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”.

La Aurora Corojo

If you are searching for a tasty, mild-to-medium strength cigar that performs like a thoroughbred yet sells for glue-factory prices, look no further. With a little searching, you can find La Aurora Corojos for under $2.50 a stick by the box. The appearance isn’t great, but it has a mouth-watering pre-light aroma and excellent construction. There’s a little spice, some citrus, and a bit of toast, which is fairly consistent throughout. You won’t be blown away, but at these prices La Aurora Corojo will perfectly fit many smoking situations.

Verdict = Buy.

-George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Matilde Renacer Toro Bravo

5 Jul 2014

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”.

I was looking forward this new cigar from legendary blender José Seijas, but I was, unfortunately, quickly disappointed. I smoked two of the 6.5-inch, 54 ring gauge sticks at $8.50 each. The taste was good—Dominican spice, some coffee, and floral notes—and there was lots of smoke. But on the first Matilde Renacer Toro Bravo the Ecuadorian Habano wrapper exploded shortly after being lit. And, while the second stayed together, the burn was so bad it negatively impacted my experience. While I realize it’s likely these two smokes were an anomaly, I can’t recommend a cigar that performed so poorly.

Verdict = Sell.

-George E

photo credit: N/A